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LMCs tentatively back PM’s new voluntary GP contract

Local GP leaders have given tentative support to the Government’s plans to introduce a new contract for larger practices, which would see them ditching the QOF.

The GPC has criticised the new voluntary contract, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron on the eve of the Conservative party conference, calling it ‘a distraction’.

However, local leaders said they are interested in seeing the opportunities possibly provided by the new contract, with some even revealing local discussions about signing up to the deal when there is ‘meat on the bone’.

There have been few details about the contract, but Mr Cameron said that practices signing up to it will no longer be subject to ‘box ticking and form filling’.

The DH has confirmed that payments will no longer be linked to the QOF for practices, although the health secretary has said that they are likely to still need to record QOF indicators.

In return, practices will be expected to grow through merging or federating to a list of at least 30,000 and provide routine weekend and evening access.

Dr Mohammed Jiva, CEO of Rochdale and Bury LMC, said: ‘[It was] discussed earlier this week with my LMC who are supportive of exploring the opportunities this might bring from a voluntary contract.

‘We are in discussion with other LMCs across Greater Manchester to work in collaboration to explore what a voluntary contract could look like and gaining support from GPC to engage in the process.’

Dr Jiva added: ‘Until there is “meat on bone” there is little reason to close the door without exploring the offer.’

Dr Uzma Ahmed, assistant medical secretary of Walsall LMC and a member of the GPC education and training subcommittee, said such a contract could be beneficial, as long as smaller practices are given time and support to federate.

She said: ‘I feel personally that this is one of the ways forward for general practice. However, it is not possible until it is properly resourced and the workforce issues are addressed.

‘If all these things are addressed, then this is something that can be positively addressed. There are opportunities for bigger practices.’

However, Dr Philip Fielding, chair of Gloucestershire LMCs, warned that the new contract will put smaller practices further at risk.

He said: ‘A new voluntary contract with strings attached may be the equivalent of changing one set of chains with another as we are thrown back into the sea as too insignificant to matter.’

But the GPC expressed its anger at the lack of consultation before the contract was announced. Deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that the current offering ‘does nothing to address the root causes of the pressures on general practice’.

He said: ‘Many GPs going through difficult PMS reviews realise how vulnerable practices can be when subject to local funding pressures.’